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The Nihilistic Populism of Donald Trump
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  • Fat_Man

    The prototype of populism were the Gracchi, who were Roman elite who campaigned for land redistribution. They were a couple of generations before Cataline.

  • Fat_Man

    I don’t mind the populism. I rather sympathize with it. But, Trump is a boor. And I do mind that.

  • Boritz

    There is an Italian reference more relevant than Berlusconi: My enemie’s enemy is my friend.

    • Andrew Allison

      “Every neighbouring state is an enemy and the enemy’s enemy is a friend.”
      ― Kautilya, The ARTHASHASTRA (4th Century B.C)

      • TheCynical1

        Another similar saying: “Sometimes, one has to ally with Stalin to fight Hitler.” Thus, folks who dwell on Trump’s flaws are missing the larger dynamic, which is fairly analyzed here by Professor Mead.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Churchill said it best. Asked how he (a lifelong anti-communist) could possibly support Stalin in his death match with Hitler, he said, “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to His Infernal Majesty in the House of Commons”

  • Anthony

    What to make of Donald Trump? “…a sign that large numbers of voters don’t feel represented by more mainstream politicians.”

    Nihilistic populism? Populism historically in America springs from perceived hardships (economic decline, stagnation, recession, tightening, comparative loss, etc.). Donald Trump and his current “polling” success may represent something other – not a social movement (nihilistic populism) nor a representative of an organized political party (GOP). That is, Trump may give symbolic representation to anxieties and frustrations played out daily in our adversarial media messaging. The “cultural apparatus” forms and makes Donald Trump; his attackers (especially those ostensibly running for the nomination) in reality aspire to what they envision Donald Trump really represents: material wealth, stature, capital success, making it the American way, etc.

    No, the Donald is not peddling nihilistic populism. Donald Trump, to both his supporters and antagonists, reflects strivings, resentments, contradictions, revelations, comparisons, uncoverings,vulnerabilities, and so much more (and yes schadenfreude in troubles of various establishments trying to contain America’s creation). Donald Trump is currently wreaking havoc for some who maintain “the radiation of control” – that can be a powerful phenomenon.

  • jeburke

    Over-analyzing, Professor. Trump is getting the same straws in polls (oscillating between 15 and 30%) that were pulled at one or another time by Huckabee, Thompson, Bachman, Herman Cain, Santorum, and Gingrich (plus a little overlap with the elder Paul). These are the voters that call themselves very conservative, like the tea party, are strongly nationalistic, and are heavily white, male, and middle income. Increasingly in recent years, coaxed, led and sometimes followed by a phalanx of radio hosts and bloggers (ever listen to Michael Savage, Professor? He makes Limbaugh look like Eisenhower), this cohort detests the Republican Party. I mean, they really HATED John McCain, Romney, Bush 41 and were never keen on Bush 43.

    It’s misleading to think this cohort — 25% of GOP primary voters working out to be at most 7 or 8 million people — cares inordinately about one or another issue — immigration, trade, law and order, Iran, Isis, growth, jobs, whatever. On every issue, they stand firmly on the right and throw brickbats at any and all Republican leaders who view things differently.

    It’s a permanent faction — one that might very well break off into a third party…depending. It was always there but until roughly the past 20 years had no convenient means of communication and organization. Now, it does, with the internet. Obviously, there is a parallel in the Democratic Party where the “progressive” left is now a powerful faction, fueling the Sanders campaign.

    Bottom line: it’s not that there are now more people “angry at Washington” or in rebellion against “the establishment.” Rather, it’s a matter of right-wing and left-wing factions becoming organized.

    • bannedforselfcensorship

      “These are the voters that call themselves very conservative, like the tea party, are strongly nationalistic, and are heavily white, male, and middle income.”

    • BurkeVA

      I keep seeing the comparisons to others who have led early and fell by the wayside. It has become the leading anti-Trump talking point. I believe that will not be true about Trump. Certainly his lead will dissipate with time, but he will maintain it. He is so much differnent than the others who failed after leading. He is self-funded and doesn’t give a whit about what anyone says about him. He walks to his own drummer. That is called leadership, for those of you who do not understand. Writing him off is simply a wish with no basis in reality.

      • Shep

        The GOPe’s intuition is actually “into wishing.”

    • VictorErimita

      Millions of people are not just sick of, but enraged at, being told that their success is ill gotten, that they didn’t build that, that the only reason they could possibly object to importing tens of millions of unskilled, uneducated people and giving them all the free stuff they can grab is because they are racist. And that they are racist anyway because of the color of THEIR skin. That their suburban lifestyle is empty, banal and maybe a little evil. That they are stupid, unhip and ignorant. That everything they have learned and based their lives on is completely wrongheaded and evil. That everyone’s opinion matters but theirs. That anyone with the designated “victim” status of the week is morally superior to them and deserves jobs, promotions, college admission and free soeech agead of them. That any opinion that diverges in the slightest way from the most radical idea of the moment is not just “conservative” but “far right wing.” A fair tax system, a sustainable economy, limited government, religion, the nuclear family, the Constitution. Anything and everything that made for an honorable, mainstrean life five minutes ago is now “far right wing.”

      All those things are false. And millions, in both political parties, are done being told otherwise. You don’t seem to get that.

      • jeburke

        But I do. I don’t doubt a thing you say. But that doesn’t explain Trump’s lead because millions of GOP primary voters who cast their straws in these polls for Cruz, Carson, Walker, Paul, Rubio, Huckabee, Santorum, yes, even Jeb, Christie, Fiorina and Kasich are just as fed up with illegal immigration, PC run wild, out of control taxation and spending, mass abortion, attacks on religion and the family and really lousy economic policies. That’s why they are Republicans! But there is a cohort – I’d be happy to call it something other than right wing but that seems to fit — that regards itself as more pure, more patriotic, more conservative than everyone else. Ironically they fall into Trump’s corner because he’s dramatic. Trump! A phony who plays a tough guy on tv. A serial adulterer. A man so crude and vulgar that Kelly barely scratched the surface of his 40 years of public disgrace.

        • VictorErimita

          I don’t disagree about Trump’s crude vulgarity. As opposed, say, to Obama’s polished, snarky hostility. I just have not read Trump’s popularity as a function of the purists on the Right. Maybe you’re right, and now that I understand you better, I’ll think about it. But I think think there is just as much name recognition, celebrity infatuation, anyone-but-Hillary, anyone-but-another-Democrat, media contempt and other factors at play.

          I also think the fatigue factor will set in fairly quickly, as the novelty wears off. Maybe people wil listen to Cruz or Fiorina, who also speak plainly, reject the Dem/media issue framing template, but who have more coherent actual positions.

        • James Alan Groome

          BUT NO one else has any credibility and because those are the candidates being pushed and foisted upon us by the establishment they are never going to gain traction with the exception of CRUZ… because they can be bought. No one trusts the republican establishment any longer because of their predecessors in the republican party making empty promises time and time again…why has a fence not been built on the southern border?

          There will be a fence before immigration policy is discussed… that is the general consensus of everyone I speak to.

          If Trump or Cruz isn’t on the ticket it might as well be a democrat as there will be no difference in the legislation and the stripping of freedom.

    • Peter Verkooijen


      I also wonder how much of this faction is baited and coaxed by trolls from the Hillary/Obama political machines.

      When Rick Perry was dragged into the 2012 race to rescue the GOP, suddenly a lot of anonymous comments appeared that all followed a similar script:

      ‘Blah blah … I am a lifelong Republican … living in Texas … military … blah blah … we hate Perry here in Texas … blah blah … Gardasil … blah blah … immigrants … blah … RINO … etc.’

      Donald Trump to me feels like a culmination of the same strategy that got Obama elected twice; throw out bait to the most clueless and gullible parts of the self-declared “Conservative Base”, stir up wedge issues, let Republicans tear eachother apart.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Lets remember that Perry, after experiencing his own boomlet in 2012, crashed and burned. He did this largely as a result of his own meltdown in a debate, and his campaign’s appallingly bad organization. I was quite intrigued by Perry in 2012, but events demonstrated quite conclusively that he wasn’t the guy. That is regrettable, certainly, but in truth he would have been an even worse candidate than Romney.
        Trump is mid-summer madness, and he will pass. The smarter GOP candidates are keeping their powder dry and waiting for the real show.

        • Peter Verkooijen

          It wasn’t the ‘ooops’ moment by itself that killed Perry in 2012; the “conservative base” had already turned against him over Gardasil and immigration (‘… heartless …’).

          Perry was drafted and unprepared for the circular fire squad he walked into.

          Where did that anti-Perry mood come from? Is the same thing happening again to the most viable candidates? The arguments for Trump you see in threads like this make absolutely no sense.

          Trump mania will pass, but the damage has been done and it will only help Bush III, just like the 2012 madness paved the way for Romney.

          And you will be saying in 2020 that Paul or Walker or Fiorina would have been even worse than Bush III.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Lets be clear about this….nominating just about anyone with a pulse would be better than nominating Jeb.
            We will both be around in 12 months (I plan to be at least)….lets see what happens. I rather believe that the GOP will be smart enough this time to avoid shooting themselves in the foot with Jeb.

        • Peter Verkooijen

          Confirmation that the most gullible parts of “The Conservative Base” are actively being baited by the other side:

          Trump is just the culmination of that strategy.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Do you honestly think that this is anything new? My dear fellow….read some history, this is a very, very old tactic, and one practiced by pretty much everyone on both sides of the aisle.

    • Fred

      The difference is that the Democrat extremists seem to be considerably smarter than the Republican extremists. However passionately they may support Sanders, when the primaries are over, their extremists will realize Hillary is as far left as they are going to get, and they will salute, march smartly to the polls and vote for her. Our extremists (the people who gave us Todd Akin, Christine O’Donnell, and Sharron Angle) labor under the delusion that America is pining for a leader to emerge from the right-wing fever swamps. They will vote for Trump, Paul, Cruz or some other hopeless nut in the primaries, and then when someone who doesn’t toe their line in every particular is nominated, they will stay home or vote for a fringe third party, helping hand the left the election. They are congenitally unable to grasp the concept of the perfect being the enemy of the good, or at least the less bad.

      • James Alan Groome

        But the middle of the road democrats will vote for Trump… I have already heard so many of them state the Democratic party has swayed so far left that it LEFT them.

      • jeburke

        I do agree that a large chunk of these voters detest the GOP and will enthusiastically back a Trump third party. Trump became the perfect vessel for this when he called Jeb a loser, etc. By junking the ordinary expectation of reasonable politeness when talking about one’s own partisans, Trump made plain that he cares not a fig for the party.

      • f1b0nacc1

        By and large, I think you are right (thus far) about this, but remember that in 2008 and 2012, the GOP nominated truly awful candidates who made no secret of their absolute contempt for the right wing of the party. The so-called moderates made it clear that hey had very little interest in anything that the right wing had to say other than ‘yes sir, may I have another’, and the message was received by those voters. In addition, in 2008 at least Obama presented himself in a manner that made him at least non-threatening, if not necessarily appealing to the centrists in the party. Romney’s nomination in 2012 left a ton of bad feeling on the right wing, and turnout was terrible as a result not only of that, but of the horribly run campaign (particularly the GOTV effort). In the meantime, Obama ran two exceptional campaigns (the only thing that he seems to do well), and his turnout effort was nothing short of brilliant. But even then, keep in mind that if turnout in 2012 for the GOP had been AS GOOD (not better) as it was in 2008, Obama would have lost, and if GOP turnout had been as good in 2008 or 2012 as it was in 2004, Obama would have lost both elections.
        With all of that said, Hillary (who is still the favorite for the Democratic nomination by a wide margin) is no Obama. She is unlikely to get anywhere near the sort of turnout that Obama was able to get, and in contrast, the right wing will line up to vote against her. There are very few figures on the left as hated as Hillary Clinton, and I rather doubt that she is going to be able to transform her image (built over 25 years) in a few months of campaigning. Instead I think we are going to see a somewhat energized GOP, and a somewhat dispirited Dem, and that will translate into a GOP victory. Of course the GOP could screw this up (Jeb Bush would be a great way to do that, for instance), but if I had to wager, I would wager that they wont….
        But we haven’t long to wait for our answers….

        • Fred

          I’m not familiar with the turnout statistics, but I have no reason to doubt you. Still, as bad as McCain and Romney might have been from a conservative perspective, it’s a rather hard argument to make that Obama was better for conservatives, and, by your own statistics, all those Tea Party types that stayed home handed him the election twice. As for Hillary, from your keyboard to God’s ears. It might help if classified material actually is found on her private server. RE Jeb: It’s sad, I believe Jeb would make a very good president; he was a very good governor of the state I live in, but I doubt anyone with the name Bush could get elected dogcatcher after W’s presidency.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Obama was regarded as undesirable in 2008, certainly, but if you weren’t a political junkie (and few are), he was an unknown quantity for the most part. The press was very careful to present him in vague, gauzy tones, heavily filtered to avoid any read discussion of what he was all about. McCain, on the other hand, was well known by conservatives, and not terribly popular. True, by 2012, Obama was widely disliked by conservatives, but so was Romney, and a general sense of ‘who cares, they are both awful’ prevailed. Turnout figures demonstrated this conclusively…Obama kept Democratic turnout very high, while the GOP didn’t, particularly with Romney.
            The Tea Party types (and in many ways I sympathize with them, though I am more libertarian that they are) weren’t enthusiastic, but the real villians (if you want to call them that) were the paleoconservatives, who stayed home in droves. Part of that has been linked (unfairly in my mind) to rumors about Romney’s Mormonism, part of it was they ‘plague on both your houses’ mentality I alluded to earlier. I think that the former is scurrilous, and reflects very poorly on those stupid enough to allow that to affect their voting, while the latter is simply depressing and sad. Sitting out the election in a two party system hands the election to the other guy, and that is a very dumb way to behave.
            I doubt that Hillary will get a free pass, if for not other reason that she is almost certain to say or do something to piss people off. Pissed off people VOTE, and that will be catastrophic for her. Let us hope that I am right here….but don’t count upon the server scandal…the press will cover for her, and the usual suspects (we have a few of them here) will vote for a convicted child molester before they would tolerate a republican (or a Republican…grin) in office.
            As for Jeb, he would be a disaster as president, fortunately he has no chance of becoming one, and I say that as a great admirer of his brother.

          • Fred

            I’m not libertarian. In fact, I would argue that Libertarianism, certainly big “L” Libertarianism is untenable due to its flawed conception of human nature and is ultimately self-undermining. But that’s another discussion. In many ways, I sympathize with the paleocons, though I reject their isolationism and protectionism and I agree that both refusing to vote for a candidate solely because of his religion and the “plague o’ both your houses” mentality are moronic and sad. You’re probably right that the server scandal won’t get much traction. The press won’t inform those voters who would care, and many, if not most, Democrat voters would vote for Charles Manson if he had a “D” behind his name. We’ll have to agree to disagree about Jeb Bush, but I would be interested to know why you think he would be such a disaster. For the record, I believe W gets a worse rap than he deserves. The financial crisis of 2008 was decades in the making, going back to the CRA in 1977, and both parties are implicated at the legislative and executive levels. But his falling for the insane notion that Iraqis are capable of liberal democracy and the rule of law made him one of our most naive foreign policy presidents, and the consequences have not been good. In any case, the public perception is that his presidency was an abject failure, and that makes Jeb’s election unlikely at best.

  • wigwag

    Trump is providing a great service to American society; he is demonstrating that our emperors in the ruling class (of both political parties) aren’t wearing any clothes; they’re utterly naked. Unfortunately it’s worse than that, our politicians are venal and the punditocracy that covers them are little more than highly compensated court jesters. Why would anyone care what Dan Drezner thinks, Professor Mead? He’s a clown if there ever was one. Who’s worse, Drezner or Trump? Who’s worse; Tom Friedman, Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews, Fareed Zakaria, Meaghan Kelly or Donald Trump. A lot of people think that our political class and their loyal paparazzi have done far more damage to our country than a blowhard like Donald Trump could do in two lifetimes.

    Here’s what millions of Americans know; they know their economic prospects are getting worse not better. They know that they are increasingly marginalized by a political system that treats them with utter disrespect. They know that Obama was speaking for most Democratic politicians when he harangued that bitter Americans cling to their guns and religion because they are pathetic. They know that Romney was speaking for most Republicans when he suggested that 47 percent of Americans are lazy good-for-nothings. They know that while their betters obsess about issues like gay marriage, transgender rights, campus sexual assault and numerous other social issues, no one is obsessing about how to make their lives better. They know that while the press is fixated on the black-lives matter movement, there is no movement designed to protect them. Americans see the United States surrendering to a bunch to tin pot mullahs in Iran and they understand that its not just their prosperity that is on the verge of disappearing, it’s their safety and the safety of their children.

    Most Americans know deep down in their hearts that none of the politicians who appeared on the stage of the GOP debate in Cleveland have any answers for them. After all, they’ve heard it all before; they understand that Republicans are merely repackaging old wine in new bottles. Does anyone believe anymore that lowering the capital gains tax by a few percent, or reducing the top marginal rate on the income tax is going to make anything better? How many Americans really think that killing Obamacare is going to improve their lives? How many believe that if the Keystone pipeline is finally built that morning in America will be on the horizon again?

    Unfortunately for the Democrats, millions of Americans realize that the Democratic Party is simply no good; it has no solutions to offer and it has completely given up on protecting the interests of average Americans. How can anyone do anything but roll their eyes at the idea that raising the capital gains tax or increasing marginal income tax rates will solve the problems that face our country? How many Americans actually believe that fixating on climate change will make them more financially secure not less financially secure? How many think that a government that can’t run the post office, efficiently operate a health insurance website or negotiate a reasonable treaty with Iran can be counted on to improve higher education, increase the number of jobs or make things right in our country again?

    The GOP and the Democratic Party have failed Americans in the most profound way; tens of millions of Americans know it. Neither political party has any solutions to offer and neither political party gives a damn about ordinary Americans. The political class and their hangers on are corrupt, incompetent and indifferent to regular people. We’ve reached a point that millions of Americans correctly believe that to be a politicians is virtually by definition to be a fraud. They’ve correctly concluded that to be a paid pundit is to be a clown and a charlatan.

    Maybe Americans are turning to Trump because they have no where else to turn. One thing is for sure; turning to him they are; since the debate and the Meaghan Kelly fiasco, Trump’s poll numbers continue to shine. With every nasty comment he makes to a reporter or to a fellow Republican candidate he becomes more and more popular. Why do reporters hate him? Because they recognize that Trump’s popularity is proof of the public’s hatred not only of his opponents but also of them.

    Everything Professor Mead says in this post is correct; Trump would not be a good president. But here’s what the public gets that the pundits don’t; neither would any of his Republican or Democratic opponents.

    There is not a single good candidate in the bunch; not one.

    • honestynow

      No mention of illegal immigration? Trump is resonating with the majority of people who have concerns on this issue.

    • jeburke

      “Who’s worse; Tom Friedman, Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews, Fareed Zakaria, Meaghan Kelly or Donald Trump?

      I’d say Trump, hands down — because he’s running for President without a shred of a reason to think he’d be a good one from any point of view. These others are just recorders of events or highly paid prattlers.

      I also challenge your premise that Trump’s support reflects some broadbased disgruntlement with “the political class.” While Americans are always cynical about politicians and skeptical about their pronouncements, this is not new. What is relatively new is the empowerment of right-wing and left-wing factions in both parties. See my comment below.

      • Mark Hamilton

        I’m not sure how you define “right-wing”, but I’m guessing most of the serious ideologues would prefer Ted Cruz or some other doctrinaire conservative to Donald Trump.

        • John Morris

          Perhaps. Understanding why Trump exists is easy folks. Listen up!

          Unlimited immigration and hatred of the DC Political Class that enables it was a huge (but toxic for fundraising) issue that was ignored. Trump grabbed that flag, raised it high and declared it the Standard he would march under. Millions breathed a sigh of relief and rallied to it. Cruz could have picked it up at any point pre-Trump and didn’t; any of the others could have and didn’t. Because it would have ended their campaign and they knew it; for all his ‘outsider’ talk Cruz is still running inside the system and needs funding from it. Trump doesn’t; that is the explanation in a nutshell.

          Say anything about Trump and it will be ignored until somebody seizes that banner from his grasp and survives the toxic nature of it. That is the problem in a nutshell.

          Perhaps, like William Jennings Bryan, Trump just looked at the landscape and picked the one popular issue that was so toxic only he could adopt it. Perhaps he doesn’t believe a word of it or is even on the other side. Won’t matter at this point.

        • jeburke

          Some do, but Trump is draining votes from Cruz

      • Shep

        You might want to spend an hour or two outside the beltway.

        • jeburke

          Never once lived inside the Beltway in my 73 years.

          • Shep

            Then you suffer from cognitive dissonance.

      • wigwag

        How broad based the backlash against the political class the Trump surge represents remains to be seen.

        • jeburke

          Of course it’s remarkable. Trump is on a roll and Ailes would rather not have him attacking FNC, many of whose loyal viewers are Trump fans. My disagreement lies with the assumption that there is some sort of mass national uprising against Washington, the establishment, politicians in general that is new, or unique, or especially distinguishable from the strong strain of cynicism and skepticism about politics in American culture. Rather, as I wrote in my comment below, Trump’s 25% of GOP voters are roughly the same 25% who have regularly backed the “anti-establishment” candidate of the moment. They are generally the most conservative (though not including all of the very conservative by any means), really dislike the Republican Party, and are itching for a third-party bolt.

      • James Alan Groome

        No one whom has been elected and is a member of any one of the international groups which value open borders and free trade into the US but won’t negotiate free trade out of the US are the problems… AND the people know this. There is a large part of the democratic party whom are EXTREMELY dissatisfied with what has happened under Obama. I have yet to meet anyone not voting for Trump… from California to Chicago, to Boca Raton to NYC to Peterboro NH blacks whites legal hispanics chinese… everyone… across the board… the elite education establishments have decided they are going to set the subjects and how this country is going to be taught. The people are PATENTLY REJECTING THE ELITES… with out them we are free without us they have to do something.

      • Andrew Allison

        Which is worse, running for President without a shred of a reason to think he’d be a good one from any point of view, or actually electing somebody like that (twice, no less)?

    • Pete

      Nice post, Wig.

      I especially liked “Why do reporters hate him [The Donald]? Because they recognize that Trump’s popularity is proof of the public’s hatred not only of his opponents but also of them.”

      And ‘hatred’ is the right word.

      • Shep

        I tend to go with outright contempt.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I absolutely agree.
      One reason why Trump is so popular is because he has such wonderful taste in enemies.

      • I will still that line.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Consider it a gift (grin)…

    • bannedforselfcensorship

      Also, the immigration issue hits a nerve with me in that I don’t mind more immigration: bring in more Chinese, Indians, Mexicans, etc., but I do mind the knowledge that the Democrats are for it mainly to replace an unreliable electorate

    • Shep

      Fantastic comment. The best analysis I’ve read yet on the Trump phenomena.

  • Beauceron

    “as he trashes the conventions of political discourse”
    Hmmm…I think a sitting President associating his political opponents with Iranian theocrats and terrorists has trashed the political discourse far more than Trump bellowing about a reporter.

    • VictorErimita

      Bingo. My response to friends who ask me archly, so what do you think of Donald Trump, is to say I don’t want to hear one freaking word about Donald Trump’s manner from anyone who voted even once, let alone twice, for Barack Obama.

      • Bob Acker

        Well, that lets me out. He’s still an oaf.

    • John Morris

      Yea. That. Perhaps a critical mass have now realized that 2012 really was the last chance to avert going over the cliff and are now resolved to at least go out with an upraised middle finger as the last thing to sink beneath the waves.

  • Kevin

    Trump’s strongest lines (even if a bit incoherent) during the debate centered around a campaign finance system and Clinton’s nonprofit that are essentially legalized bribery and his calling the political class to account on it. (Rubio’s (student debt) and Walker’s (aggressively normal Harley rider) trying to connect themselves to middle class lifestyles can be seen as something similar.

    Trump’s immigration rhetoric in that setting was very weak – his earlier sanctuary city crime victims focus comes across much better than unsubstantiated plots by the Mexican gov’t to export my dress and rapists. He also needs a better answer on past instances of misogyny (such as it was a “show biz act” played to gin up ratings or something half apologetic) than attacking the questioners.

    I’m no fan of his, but it’s early in the crazy days of August. He has plenty of time and money to retune his message and could be a formidable candidate with a bit more discipline. He certainly taps into a deep reservoir of antipathy for conventional politics. The big question is whether that can exceed 25-30% of the GOP primary electorate. And whether he really wants to win or just have fun seeing his name in the headlines while he throws bombs.

  • Pete

    1. ” …the rise of Donald Trump is best understood as a populist event—“an indictment of the GOP establishment and, for that matter, of the American political establishment in general” and “a sign that large numbers of voters don’t feel represented by more mainstream politicians.”

    Exactly correct.

    2. ” …as Drezner points out, hard-line immigration enforcement may not be particularly high on the agendas of a majority of voters,..”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Every poll I have seen placed illegal immigration at or very near the top of concerns the American people have.

    • R_of_the_H

      You can go out in the country of any state in the US and you’ll hear dogs start barking. Because even a dog knows what their boundary and property rights are.
      Just incredible how stupid the so called intelligencia is.

  • Vizzini

    For voters who’ve come to believe that both parties are owned and operated by the kind of people who pay Hillary Clinton hundreds of thousands of dollars to make platitudinous speeches, who believe that the system is rigged and will never be reformed, that the candidates offering “real solutions to real problems” are fooling either themselves or, more probably, you, Trump at least offers the satisfaction of making the other rat bastards and pompous PC elites squirm.

    But Trump is the kind of person who pays Hillary Clinton hundreds of thousands of dollars to make platitudinous speeches….

  • “By incurring the hatred of the chattering classes, he seems to some voters to be signaling both that he hates the empty showmanship of the capital as much as they do and that, by making himself the enemy of the self-determined arbiters of the rules of the political game, he is throwing himself on the support of the American people.”

    That’s utter nonsense. Trump IS an empty showman. If “some voters” take his self-love and empty showmanship to be a signal that he hates the empty showmanship of the capital, then those voters are irrational.

    We’re supposed to believe that the crony capitalist who brags on the debate stage about being a crony capitalist — who simultaneously insists that he’s so rich he can’t be bought, and about the politicians he himself has bought — is THE GUY to rescue us from crony capitalism?

    Yes, this is the silly season, but that’s no reason for this kind of silliness.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Yes, Trump is an empty showman, but he isn’t a hectoring scold like the others. One reason why Trump hasn’t suffered any backlash from the voters on this whole Kelly fracas is that he did what many of us would like to do in a similar situation, tell the scold in question to get stuffed. Lets be honest, Trump made an (admittedly crude) remark about Rosie O’Donnell, and then told Kelly that he didn’t care whether she approved of it or not. How many real voters long for that opportunity?

      • RonRonDoRon

        “he isn’t a hectoring scold like the others”

        He sometimes is a scold. Most of the time, he’s a hectoring blowhard.

        • Honest Abe

          More of a reason for me to vote for Donald Trump

    • Anthony

      You have simply highlighted both pulse and sentiment of referenced populace – P.T. Barnum (a sucker is born every minute) would be pleased.

    • BurkeVA

      A self-made multi-billionaire is many things, but an empty showman, I don’t think so.

      • Peter Verkooijen

        Trump is not self-made. He inherited his wealth.

        • Orson OLSON

          Hey – don’t knock it – when 10 million gets you 10 billion, that’s a head start but very rare, considering – for example – that the century-old Rockefeller fortune is now worth about 1% to his heirs.

          • Peter Verkooijen

            Trump got richer through cronyism, bluff and bullying, letting business partners hold the bag and, most importantly, the Fed-fueled real estate bubble that is at the core of America’s economic problems. “If you owe a bank thousands, you have a problem; owe a bank billions, the bank has a problem.”

          • James Alan Groome

            WAH WAH WAH TRUMP played the game set up by crooked politicians and you expect anyone whom supports him to CARE? Nothing emanating from Donald Trump’s mouth can ever offend me as much as the VOTES of McConnell, Graham, and the rest of the RINO ESTABLISHMENT CROWD… A FENCE is going to be built on the BORDER… YOU CAN BELIEVE THAT! There is NO ONE in Washington or whom has held office (Cruz maybe the exception) who can win whom holds any credibility… SHRUB the ball less wonder? Perry? They are all controlled and bought by the money. Most see it like this… we gave the reins to a half term community organizing senator for 8 years… exactly how much worse could a self financed American loving billionaire business man with a BENCH 8 miles deep and connections to people whom can make decisions actually perform?

          • Peter Verkooijen

            Trump only helps Bush III get nominated and help “Hillary” get elected after that. If you are not a troll yourself, you have been been trolled.

          • James Alan Groome

            SO what? Anyone besides Trump and Cruz is the more of the same … nothing different between Republicans and Democrats in the last 25 years… Give me ONE reason to believe anyone besides Trump?

          • Peter Verkooijen

            Give me ONE reason to believe Trump.

          • James Alan Groome

            I don’t care if you believe him…
            I don’t care to mince words with someone intent on voting for the same ole crap… and expecting something besides what we have received for the last 40 years.
            Which is bad, overpriced, bloated, wasteful, irresponsible, warmongering, government …
            NOW stop deflecting and obfuscating if you wish to present an argument as to why ANY one should believe any PROFESSIONAL POLITICIAN please do so else you have nothing of value to add from henceforth.

          • Peter Verkooijen

            So Donald Trump is going to end ‘bad, overpriced, bloated, wasteful, irresponsible, warmongering government’?!

            You must be a troll. Nobody is that dumb.

            Your insistence that I answer your pointless question is also a typical Alinsky tactic. I shouldn’t answer, but OK…

            Rand Paul is a practicing opthamologist. He is a politician now, but has so far done what he was elected to do. He wants to check executive power, restore balance between the branches, give power back to the states and the people. He has offered concrete proposals.

            Trump would be a professional politician the moment he is elected for anything. With what we know about his blatant cronyism now, what makes you think he would be any more pure or effective than other politicians?

          • James Alan Groome


          • James Alan Groome

            Trump is the only one not form DC… if you like how DC has run for50 years vote for more of the same… I don’t like it, I am voting LIKE the REST OF AMERICA for TRUMP.

          • You answered your own question: Instead of supporting a lifelong Democrat who’s backed single-payer healthcare, who’s pro-choice, who brags about being a crony capitalist and paying off politicians, you COULD back a serious candidate. Ted Cruz is certainly one.

          • James Alan Groome

            Honestly if Trump and Cruz are polling combined 50-60% republicans with others still in they could break off a large chunk of middle road FAIR TRADE FAIR TAX democrats and Republicans as well as independents.
            There are many democrats that want the border secured as well…not party demos I mean people in America Democrats.

          • James Alan Groome

            I don’t care about crony capitalism he played the game as it was set… if you don’t like it petition your lawmakers and see where it gets you… I did it for 25 years… TRUMP is the first light at the end of a long tunnel that we thought Ron Paul would get through… MEANING turning the system on it’s head…

          • James Alan Groome

            HE HAS SEEN THE LIGHT AND IS GOING TO DESTROY THE ESTABLISHMENT…you obviously rely on DC for your paycheck.

          • James Alan Groome

            I am not voting for more of the same EVER AGAIN I would rather put up trump have him lose than to support the lesser evil. HILLARY is GOING TO JAIL>>>

          • James Alan Groome

            Hillary has no moral high ground nor any other to stand on regarding treatment of or pay for women. She has been the leader and rally master for a full frontal assault against so many women… they will come out of the wood work if she get the nomination… she has attacked, threatened, and ruined the lives of so many of her husbands employees there are bound to be a few of whom will testify of filing charges alleging Bill Clinton of sexual assault and then being bullied threatened or beat into submission by Hillary or agents of Hillary with them subsequently dropping the charges or disappearing. Do you know how much this sets back women whom have been abused? It also serves to keep abused women in the shadows for fear of being raped again by people like HILLARY. That is how they describe it… the persecution the threats the intimidation… HILLARY RAPED THE WOMEN AGAIN. I STAND BEHIND THAT!
            But yea, I mean besides that, OH AND the fact that women working at State under Hillary made 85% of what their male colleagues made for the same job classification. There is THAT! The one time she can make pay equal for women… and right before running for president, I might add… she continued to carry on with that which she claims to be against. SHE did nothing!
            It lacks all sound reasoning that she did this, shouldn’t she have realized that the perception of women would kill her on this? This is relevant as it happened in the last 5 years and as a political figure she should have realized the perception would be she is a hypocrite. Americans will elect many liars and flawed people to office however they will reject a hypocrite time and time again, there is nothing I believe Americans have more disdain for than a hypocrite… the gun debate comes to it… the elites want to take guns but they have guns protecting them… hypocritical to the highest power. If she didn’t take this into account what does that say about either her judgment or her sense of entitlement?

          • Peter Verkooijen

            As the polls are now, “Hillary” would lose against most GOP candidates, certainly against Rand Paul. But she would win against Donald Trump.

          • I *do* knock it, I challenge it, and I know better than to believe it. Trump’s net worth is not $10B, nor anything close to that, unless you credit in full his own ridiculous evaluations of the “Trump Brand.” Forbes and many other financial reporting companies put his net worth at a fraction of that, anywhere from 40% of it on down. And there is no disputing that he’s cost other Americans many times his own claimed net worth via his companies’ repeated bankruptcies. And they weren’t merely four bankruptcies like he claimed on stage, but four WAVES of bankruptcies, each involving multiple cross-collateralized obligations; the unsecured creditors weren’t the “sharks” he claimed on-stage, but utilities and trade creditors and ordinary businesses and working people; in his last wave of bankruptcies, the one about which Chris Wallace asked him, the unsecured creditors got less than 1 cent on the dollar. The only thing he’s famous for in the business world is being difficult to work with or for, and running his businesses into bankruptcy repeatedly. Do your homework, rather than taking his self-promotion at face value, please. He’s a lousy businessman; he’s exactly as successful a businessman as Paris Hilton is successful as a model and dramatic actress, which is to say: They’re both famous for nothing but being famous.

    • Honest Abe

      Thank you for posting that prattle I will be voting for Donald Trump

  • HenryC

    I enjoy Trump’s non PC campaign. I will never actually vote for him because his policies are more progressive than conservative, but I enjoy the stick he is poking in the Washington’s elites eyes.

    • BurkeVA

      How about if he is the GOP nominee? Will you vote for him then?

      • f1b0nacc1

        If the alternative is Hillary, perhaps….even then, I would have to think about it

  • Who can say it’s any one thing? For me, it’s seeing out and out venal behavior going unpunished, out and out lying not being called out on, a leftist press, comics and Garry Trudeau protecting Obama, and a GOP Establishment that burned their campaign promises the day after the vote.

    And what are we supposed to think when Daniel Drezner tries to handwave opposition to open borders with “even though the elites’ immigration reform agenda has gone nowhere over the last decade”? Is he ignoring Obama’s presidential orders not to deport illegal immigrants? Not to even hold illegal immigrants when they committed crimes? Push to grant voting rights, driver’s licenses, college education aid, and green cards for illegal immigrants? Does he really think arguing the “reform agenda has gone nowhere” in the face of these actions is a viable argument?

    Mr. Mead, if you’re his friend, answer this: Is he a fool or does he think we are?

  • amoose1959

    Be forewarned , there is going to be backlash against the liberal elites of this country. The silent majority sees the horrors of a failed liberal ideology for the past half century and they are brimming with frustration. DT is a lighting rod for this frustration . As an example you talk about sham: look in the mirror. Your industry , higher education, rips off working parents with exorbitant matriculation cost while giving their kids a second rate education steeped in liberal ideology, devoid of the classics, devoid of true diversity, devoid of competence standards while you professors become tenured with exorbitant salaries knowing that you have a job for life with no one to answer to. No, not DT ( he at least is held accountable), but your failed industry full of liberal elites is a true sham.

    • Shep

      They’ve never earned an honest dollar in their lives.

  • BurkeVA

    “Trump is a sham, of course…” Boy, these academic, inside-the-beltway, professional politicians and commentators are going nuts trying to explain Trump and explain him away. They simply have no idea what he represents to so many Americans. Trump is a leader, a guy who will stand up for himself and America and not bullshit the voters. We haven’t had a guy like him since Reagan. We white, racist,lemmings (did I get it all?), for that seems to be the only explanation in why we might support this guy, are up to here with politics as usual, as elected Democrats and Republicans do whatever they damn well please, as long as it enriches themselves and the rest of us be damned and pay the bill. We are a laughing stock overseas. Domestically, Gays, who make up around 2% of the population, and Blacks, who make up 13% and who knows how many millions of illegals dominant policy development and implementation. Nothing against Gays or Blacks ( a lot against illegals), but just when did the 73% white population and the Christians and Jews lose their standing in our society? Must I go on for people to understand just how angry and frustrated the overwhelming majority of Americans are at what Obama, Pelosi, Reid, McConnell and Boehner have done and continue to do to our country? And Red State, you disinvited Trump from your meeting because of what you thought he said? Trump is the antidote to all the poison surrounding us. That is why he is so popular.

  • Shep

    More pseudo intellectual pablum from a GOPe Lap Dog.

    Here’s the deal. Trump is a vehicle to destroy the establishment.

    It’s like the saying in Vietnam, “we have to burn down the village to save it.”

    • f1b0nacc1

      And how well did that work out?

      • Shep

        Well. The village was fried and the soldiers moved on. No enemies, no problem.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Good result for one village…perhaps that is how we won the….oh, wait, we didn’t….

          • Shep

            Yes, the GOPe “village” will cease to exist like the Whigs. Out of the ashes something better will rise.

            Gotta think long term.

          • f1b0nacc1

            What color is the sky on your planet?

          • Shep

            Yours is going to be red when we’re done with you. Head for the hills boy.

  • Mark Hamilton

    “Trump is a sham, of course, but for many Americans in 2015 the whole political process is a sham. Trump, however, is an entertaining sham, and some voters think that if the establishment is going to screw you no matter what you do, you might as well vote for the funny one.”

    I can’t speak for others and have no way of knowing what is driving most of Trump’s support, but this sentiment does explain Trump’s appeal to me. I don’t like Trump and I know he is a joke. But if the alternative is Jeb Bush or some other “get along go along everything is fine we just need small adjustments” candidate, I’d prefer Trump. The frustration is that high. If Trump melts away, you can expect to see a lot of missing voters if the GOP can’t find it within itself to endorse serious change and not just perfunctory lip service to the notion.

    • The_Von

      There is not false choice between Jeb and Trump though. There are a lot of dang good candidates who have actually, you know, gotten conservative stuff done in their previous positions. Scott Walker comes immediately to mind. So why do Trump supporters automatically think it’s a choice between Jeb or Trump? This is what boggles my mind.

      • Mark Hamilton

        That choice is hypothetical at this point, but I think it is symptomatic of the Trump appeal. He’s getting some support simply because he is a celebrity. But he’s getting a lot of it because he doesn’t play the PC game on, for example, immigration like Jeb and the rest of the standard candidates do.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Spot on….Walker is my choice, but he is a black hole of charisma. On the other hand, he will be running against Hillary, who if anything is even worse. And yes, his foreign policy chops need some serious steroids, but do you really think that Hillary wants that to be the focus of the campaign?

      • Orson OLSON

        True “The_Von” – but who can else can neuter the PC-thugs of the Ruling Class knaves? While inspiring trust and the big Mo?

      • Boritz

        Watch for Karl Rove to have a litter of kittens if it’s anyone but Bush. His power block has been choosing the candidate and they”re never open to a different possibility than their first choice.

    • Orson OLSON

      Double ditto that.

  • Ch Hoffman

    his is the populism of the haves; his is the rational approach to politics of the “keep the government out of my medicare” plack-holders

  • Lockstein13


    What IS “nihilism” is enabling the Clinton/Bush Party
    and expecting a different outcome than previous disasters.

    • chatmandu7451

      Nihilistic is rejecting all religious and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless. Sounds more like the liberal/progressive democrats.

      • Honest Abe


  • chatmandu7451

    It’s all about the people getting tired of the PC BS and the RINOs who won’t do what they were elected to do.

  • zzboy

    Trump is just more confirmation that politics is just a side show and joke. The real power resides in the unelected, unaccountable Administrative State that issues reams of new rules, regulations, diktats and edicts yearly all with the force of law. The status-quo Administrative State is where the Establishment Elites go to feed robbing the American people blind in the process. It both legislates and enforces its own edicts while trashing the Separation of Powers and the Constitution. This top-down centralized construct has no place in our Constitutional Republic because it usurps power and wealth that rightfully belong to the States and People. Unless and until leadership is found to roll back this out-of-control tyrannical monstrosity the nation will continue on its glide path to collapse. Is Trump that guy? Does he even have a clue what I’m talking about?

  • MikePM

    When the clearly preferred establishment party standard-bearers are an heir to a failed political dynasty who appears to consider himself more Mexican than American, and an overly entitled unconvicted criminal who treats basic laws and norms of behavior with open contempt, buffooinish showmen like Donald Trump inevitably end up receiving serious consideration.

    He’s nothing but a symptom of the utter failure of what passes for modern elite leadership in our rapidly declining country to solve problems and address the legitimate concerns of millions of Americans. More and more people are thinking to themselves “Why the heck not? We can’t do much worse than what we’ve had recently.”

  • tpaine1

    Trump “doesn’t need this gig.” Consequently, he can say and do things “normal” politicians can’t.
    Conversely, if elected, he will be able to do things “to make America great again” and not be beholden to anyone to get that accomplished.
    Really, a refreshing change.

    • Honest Abe


  • The latest member of the Cocktail Party putting doing the lickspittle for his Establishment friends. We’re all stupid clingers that don’t know nuttin out heah in the hinterlands. Every day and every Establishment article by the toadies convinces me of two things: 1. I will NEVER ever vote for the Establishment candidate. Not ever. And, 2. If they are so willing to hand us THIS propaganda, then everything else they write must also be tainted.

    • James Alan Groome

      If we know nothing then leave us the F alone… stop enacting a bunch of BS to make our lives more expensive, but no screw up everything you touch including any real business which produces a tangible good and then proceed to explain how we don’t know as good as you.
      If every politician and lawyer ceased to exist few people I know would have their lives change… however if all that were left were lawyers and politicians they would actually have to do REAL work and produce something.

      REMEMBER the only one in a court room whom can get away with a lie is the LAWYERS…

  • Peter Verkooijen

    Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are the type of candidates that always emerge in bankrupt, collapsing welfare states; promising security and continued free goodies and entitlements, blaming foreigners and “the rich” or “the elite” for any problems.

    This demagoguery started with Barack Obama; the Great Leader who by force of his personality alone would fix everything, with no regard for constitutional niceties. Trump and Sanders are simply the next step downhill. America is now Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 1930s, Argentina in the 1940s.

    Luckily Trump and Sanders are likely too incompetent and ridiculous to really make it to the top of “their” parties, but more competent and opportunistic politicians, like Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, will probably adopt their brand of politics. Societies usually don’t come back from the path America is now on.

    • James Alan Groome

      The difference is most welfare states do not have the natural resources or the infrastructure we do… we have squandered so much capital on the political class though the think tanks and consultants and NGO’s and UN etc… they do nothing but prop up the systems which serve the govt.

  • polistra24

    Mead thinks that ‘populist’ and ‘popular’ are the same word. They’re not. Trump’s views are not consistent, but to the extent you can categorize his ideas, he’s pretty close to the Populist tradition. Strong on borders and sovereignty, strong on industrial policy, open to many ‘welfare state’ programs. Jennings Bryan would approve.

    • Peter Verkooijen

      So a Democrat with an unhealthy dose of nativism.

  • restore the middle class

    This is the most fascinating election season I remember. On one hand Donald Trump is whipping up the right and on the other, Sanders pulling huge crowds on the left. I do hope our country chooses someone in the MIDDLE.

    The only moderate I see in the GOP field is Chris Christie. Jeb, Rubio, and Kasich are all sell-out liberal Dems at heart.

  • He has unwavering support from me because of his well articulated and brave public statements on Vaccines being connected to Autism and his disdain for Common Core:

    I articulate a few more reasons to support him in the blog post.

  • Orson OLSON

    EXCEPT that there is lots of other evidence of deep, popular distrust of the ruling class. To begin with, take the media; distrust for it has very roughly doubled in one year’s time, during the Obamunist Big Lie of increasing police brutality of blacks (“Poll: 70 percent of Americans believe news media is intentionally biased”), reaching heights not see anywhere recently but Estonia :

    And the economic pain – home-ownership, percentage of people holding jobs, youth income (with one-third living with their parents) – unseen since before the 1980s…and tell us, WRM, what happened in 1980? HUH?

    Then there’s growing poverty rates, and Obama selling out America around the world. A leading candidate could do a Hell of a lot worse than “Make America great AGAIN!” No?

  • Orson OLSON

    Oh – and then there’s the constant Obamunist corruption that the media may mention, but can’t put a micro- or even macroscopic on the Obamunists to suss out their responsibility for. Meanwhile, Trump insulates himself against all of the people’s cynicism by egotistically ,bragging “I’m richer” than Croesus! If F H Buckley is correct and we are living in a post-constitutional era of revanchist “elective Kingship,” then the Tea Party patriots might have finally discovered a Knight to lead a charge for revolutionary reform. As a liberty-minded T-shirt company’s slogan mocking our Obama-Hillary-Jeb era puts it, “I’m ready for Oligarchy!” A championship out-sider “King” is the only hope left to redeem the Great Republic.

  • OBX47

    The Nihilistic Populism of Donald Trump, um, let’s see …as opposed to the outright corruption of mainstream politicians, as well as the “special interest -owned” Democratic and Republican parties. I am ready to take my chances with someone who can’t be bought; we certainly haven’t done well with our “pretend” representatives. Let’s get them all out and elect real Americans who care about maintaining a government “of the people, by the people and FOR THE PEOPLE.” Let Trump be the first!

  • pp91303

    Trump’s appeal isn’t that he is entertaining, his appeal is based on two things. He is addressing topics on which there is broad public support (e.g. enforcing our immigration laws) and on which the political class is acting for its own benefit (the leftists want votes, so they don’t care what unfettered immigration does to our society) . Trump also has appeal because he stands up to the PC police and refuses to apologize. Those are not trivial issues nor do they appeal to the minority. The majority wants someone who won’t kowtow to the conventional wisdom of the inside-the-beltway consultant class.

    Trump isn’t my choice for president, but he has value as long as he keeps attacking all the taboo subjects that the political class and the media have deemed outside the bounds of polite discussion.

  • valwayne

    Its taken nearly 7 years of the most ego driven, incompetent, inept, divisive, dishonest, ideological, damaging, failed nightmare of a Presidency under Obama to create the condition that would allow a mean, unprincipled, uncouth, nasty, foul mouthed buffoon like Trump to take the lead in a Republican Primary. Think about that? Republicans are supposed to be responsible, thoughtful, adult, conservative guardians of the status quo, and yet after 7 years of Obama inflicting damage and decline on our nation, with Republicans unable to blunt most of the damage the frustration and anger at what Obama has done has reached a level that 20 to 30% of them are willing to support a guy who described himself as being very liberal, and getting more liberal all the time, very pro-Abortion, and a man who sends a retweet about Megyn Kelly being a Bimbo and then says she had “Blood coming out of her…whatever”! Republican will gain their sanity and become responsible again. They know Trump isn’t fit for the White House. However, for the time being they are in a venting mode.

  • James_IIa

    Some of those polling for Trump are doing so for the pure fun of watching the elites squirm, and for the fun of showing the custodians of the politically correct that political correctness will lead them to a crashing defeat. If that’s what you’re getting from declaring for Trump, why would it make any difference what policies Trump supports?

    It’s early in the contest, and at least some people believe that they have plenty of time to get more serious. They may be right, but they may also trap themselves.

  • Deserttrek

    so discourse is not a worry?? in 1992 i was told i was stupid and a hater for not backing the clintons, this was from the clinton campaign directly, where the the discourse police? 2008 and beyond the smearing of Sarah Palin, no discourse police.

    Trup is representing many of us, yes the political class is beyond corrupt and are traitors to the Republic and the Constitution. The piece of manure in the white house has lowered discourse to below school yard levels.

    I am fine with Trump so far. The more I see and hear the howling the more right I know I am

  • circleglider

    Trump empathizes with the emotions being felt by those who believe themselves to be negatively affected by [pick a trend.] His supporters mistake his empathy for concrete solutions. Or they are incapable of distinguishing between empathy and anything else including outright lies.

    This is the definition of demagoguery: manipulating the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the people in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagoguery is a risk in all democracies; it is the chief reason why American’s founders designed our republic to include so many anti-democratic features. It is also why Progressives have always promoted direct democracy.

    Obama sailed to power with a very similar strategy. The difference was that Obama was also a stealth establishmentarian. He was also hopeful and optimistic, which are opposites of nihilism.

    This will not end well. For either Trump or his supporters.

  • Whitehall

    Walker as Gandhi – brilliant observation!
    As to Trump, there’s the Rumsfeldian observation that you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. Cruz has been limited by having to play generally within the elite’s ball park. Trump is fully liberated from those restraints.
    Cruz would be a better, more effective president in many ways and certainly make the best judicial appointments of all the candidates, but Cruz will remain vulnerable to MSM sliming in ways that Trump isn’t. However, Trump’s claim that he would be the best negotiator is hard to deny.

  • humanterms

    i’m amused by Mead’s use of Catiline, Andrew Jackson, and Ross Perot in comparison to Donald Trump. Catiline did in fact come from a monied family, but one that was down on its luck by the time Catiline came along, and he had to make his way with no money, and few connections. Andrew Jackson was the child of poor immigrants with no connections. Ross Perot was certainly not born into money or class, but he worked his way into phenomenal success. Donald Trump was born to a successful father; he benefited from the best of private schools, and his college education (however murky), certainly included the best schools. What exactly is the comparison there? Andrew Jackson and Ross Perot both came from nothing but a work ethic, and theybuilt fortunes and reputations based on their hard work and determination — that kind of success story inspires populism. Donald Trump is the monied brat of a successful man, who has benefited from his father’s fortune and the access to education and business contacts that has brought to him. He has also benefited from crony capitalism, corrupt politics, and the media pimping on wihich our entertainment industry thrives. Trump may have a few good lines that resonate with the American people, but he has nothing in common with most Americans, and hard-working Americans who have had to make their own way, without Daddy’s money, without government bailouts, and without political favors, will eventually lose interest in him and his antics.

  • Honest Abe

    Nihilistic good God

  • Arkeygeezer

    Much ado about nothing! It is great political theater to see the pundits v. Donald Trump!

  • MAX

    Another trashy glib argument: “Nihilistic populism” inserted at the end with no link to the rest of the article. Trump is anything but nihilistic; rather it is the elite establishment and their media minions who are cynical to the point of nihilism; this nihilism has been the case for two generations. The gratuitous slurs against Trump show the target audience is not the general reader but fellow media minions–the author feels he must conform, must not stray from his class groupthink, must add smear to be tight with his homies. The argument that Trump’s positions are not really very popular is actually demented; 180 degrees out of phase. 70% of the population have strong feelings about controlling immigration–this is without question. (Trump’s other positions are reduced to simplicity but are very well smartly conceived–as time will demonstrate.) Author is a classless, low level thinker who due to feelings of insecurity must add meaningless slurs to prove to his cohorts that he is not straying from the party line; this and the lazy analysis on Trump’s positions takes the article from being a mediocre piece with a couple of interesting points to a juvenile screed with no basis in truth.

  • James Alan Groome

    Thinks the whole political class consists of high minded… yada yada yada think? WE KNOW! If any one thinks Trump support is waining… think again.
    I do not understand why they don’t ask him policy questions on stage?
    It is obviously because the ones whom control discourse and topics are AFRAID of his answers… AFRAID he will have the people of this country behind him, leaving the media castrated. If he is elected things are going to change… not in a good way for the pundits critics consultants, media personalities, NGO’s, lawyers, and anyone else whom owes their existence to the PUBLIC TEET in DC.

  • NormalPerson

    Trump has of course already saved us from the tyrant that has been ruling over us: the wicked press. He just slaps them once or twice and they melt in front of your eyes. Muttering things like Megyn just said, ‘Well, it was really right what I did. Sure. Yeah…’ PC has already been taken down 20 notches. It’s over, fellas. I’m not going to bow to you any more, not on what fat person I can call fat, not on what weirdo I can call weirdo, not on anyone who comes to attack my way of life and demand special treatment for it. Game over.

  • Peter Verkooijen

    Confirmation that the most gullible parts of “The Conservative Base” are actively being baited by the other side:

    Obamacrats have been using variations of this tactic for years. Conservatives keep taking the bait. Trump is the culmination of this strategy.

  • Episteme

    I think a major problem in the “how do we explain Trump!?” article that call out for fallbacks to conservatism, progressivism, populism…I’ve seen some suggesting corporatism…is that we’ve been so used working up mechanistic epistematic models of government, society, technology, etc. over the past 150 years – even after the Progressive Era proper, we grew so used the concepts of technocracy and regulation that even on the Right we’ve tailored our expectations to having a predictable understanding and modeling of everything. That we’ve passed into a period of total disruption in technology and markets gets a sense that we need to rewrite certain elements of the playbook – which is why I think that everyone’s been trying these weird new things politically while at the same time being angry at not getting predictable results (we fooled ourselves into thinking that social inputs had stable outcomes as if politics was a science because even conservatives have been thinking like progressives since Reconstruction). Trump’s just one of a number of a series of political elements of disruption (I use disruption in the same sense as we’d use it in talking about Uber) that we’ve seen over the past decade – he’s just bigger, louder, and has appeared in a media environment that has more ‘channels’ for social communication than it even did a year or two ago much less five years ago when something the Tea Party emerged. We can’t explain this by assigning one the stock names of the past century as if there’s a GENUS, SPECIES list for political interactions. That time is ending and we’re into of something else in society…

  • Candygram for Mongo

    It’s clear that Trump’s rise is a result of political incompetence of the establishment GOP. They step on their base every chance they get. We are told how conservative they are when campaigning but they insist that conservatives can’t win. Screw them, they want to be in charge of the money and have no desire to do what the people elected them to do. Trump is a fighter, unlike we’ve seen from the GOP. Good or bad vibes doesn’t matter. The people that poll in the single digits want us to stick with them? The people that screwed up this country want another chance to fix the problems they created? Reach across the aisle is what we elected them for? You can’t work with the people looking to fundamentally transform our country.

    Trump is a celebrity. A big chunk of the populace cares more about idols than they do politics. Obama wasn’t elected for his accomplishments. He was elected because he was made into stardom. Trump will grab Democrat votes, Hispanics votes, Black votes and women votes for exactly that reason. People like big shots with flair. His position matter to those that follow politics however many don’t follow politics. Trump is a symbol of rich and famous. That will go a long way.

  • vendome

    When Megan Kelly slapped the Donald with the PC, War on Women question concerning past words with Rosy O’Donnel, the Donald hit the answer out of the park and then let Megan and the audience know that “he didn’t have time for PC,” and the Country didn’t have time for PC either because the Country is in bad shape.

    This is the truth. I hope this is the beginning of the end of the PC (Progressive Crap) movement that has so damaged our Country and relationships.

    People are sick of PC – and a huge backlash is coming. The Donald threw that PC crap right back in Megan’s face – and everyone loved him for it. Bravo Trump!

  • johngbarker

    Does this post hold the record for the number of comments?

  • carpetbaggahs & scally wags

    “The Donald’s high-flying, bombastic style, with its tasteless and vulgar
    flaunting of exactly the kind of wealth that populism resents, looks
    superficially like it ought to drive hoi polloi away.”

    Wrong. The Donald’s bombastic style is 180 degrees opposite the “kind of wealth that populism resents”, which is the tasteful wealth of educated elites.

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